After graduating high school, Robert Simanek joined the Marine Corps and, soon after, set sail for Korea with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Serving as a rifleman at the time, Simanek carried the massive and very powerful Browning Automatic Rifle. While “in-country,” the young Marine was also tasked with being the platoon’s radioman — pulling a double-duty.
On Aug. 17, 1952, Simanek’s squad was out patrolling through various outposts slightly north of Seoul.
Unfortunately, the squad made a wrong turn, and the occupying Chinese forces were patiently waiting for the 12-man team.
Almost immediately, the squad came under heavy enemy gunfire, causing Simanek to seek cover in a nearby trench line along with other Marines.
After sustaining a few casualties, Simanek maneuvered left and ran into two Chinese officers who were, oddly enough, just having a conversation. To his surprise, the enemy had no idea that the young Marine had spotted them. So, Simanek took them both out with a few squeezes of his trigger.
Now, gaining momentum, Simanek quickly maneuvered through the enemy-infested area until two grenades landed near his feet. He kicked one of the frags away but ran out of time to relocate the second.
The young rifleman shielded his fellow brothers by covering the exploding grenade with his own body. Somehow, the tough-as-nails Marine survived. Simanek was able to instruct the other wounded Marines nearby to head back to the rear — he’d provide cover for them. He crawled on his hands and knees prepared to fight before a rescue squad showed up, much to his relief.
The courageous Marine was medevaced from the area. A year later, Simanek was informed that we would receive the Medal of honor for his bravery and selflessness.
On Oct. 27, 1953, Simanek was awarded the precious metal by President Eisenhower.
Leaders often have the dubious task of delivering bad news to a formation and setting expectations for a unit. Sometimes, to keep troops motivated or to scare people straight, they’ll stretch the truth a little. Occasionally, they stretch it past the breaking point and just go with an outright lie.
It’s understandable that leaders, stuck between the story they’re given from headquarters and the need to keep troops on task, will take the shortcut of lying every once in awhile. What isn’t understandable is why they would think that troops will keep falling for the same lies over and over.
Here are 6 falsehoods that junior enlisted folks stopped believing a long time ago:
1. “As soon as we clean weapons, we’re all going home.”
No. Once weapons have been accepted by the armorer, someone has to tell first sergeant. First sergeant will tell the commander who will finish this one email real quick. Just one more line. He swears. He’s walking out right now.
Oh, but his high school girlfriend just Facebook messaged him and he has to check it real fast … Have the men sweep out the unit areas until he gets back.
2. “We’re all in this together.”
Misleading to say the least. Yes, the entire unit will receive a final assessment for an exercise together and a unit completely overrun in combat will fall regardless of what MOS each soldier is, but that’s the end of how this is true.
After all, the whole unit may be in the war together, but the headquarters element is often all in the air conditioning together while the line platoons are all in the firefight together. The drone pilots may be part of the battle too, but they’re mostly in Nevada together.
3. “This will affect your whole career.”
Look, if Custer could get his commission withheld for months in 1861 and still pin major general in 1863 (that’s cadet to major general in two years), then the Army can probably figure out how to make room for a busted down private on his way to specialist.
4. “Everyone is getting released at 1500.”
No. And anyone who even starts to believe this one deserves the inevitable disappointment. The timeline always creeps to the right.
5. “This will build esprit de corps.”
Two things build esprit de corps: screwing up together and succeeding together. Running five miles together is not enough of an accomplishment to build esprit de corps. And anyone who falls out of these exercises to build unit cohesion on an obstacle course will be alienated by their failure, not brought into the fold.
6. “‘Mandatory fun’ will be.”
“Mandatory fun” never is. It will be miserable for the participants, embarrassing for the organizers, and scary for the family members who are forcefully “encouraged” to bring their kids to an event with hundreds of cussing, dipping, and drinking troops.
Making a video game based on historical events often means navigating the fine line between creating an experience that’s consistently engaging to the player without trivializing the gravity of the real event. This is especially true of military conflicts.
Battlefield 1’s single player campaign did a terrific job of this, giving the player the warning of, “you are not expected to survive” before tossing them into the grim reality that is WWI trench warfare.
Other games, however, use the backdrop of the invasion of Normandy as yet another arena in which players can “360 No Scope” each other.
Then, you have Atomic Games’ controversial Six Days in Fallujah, which was slated to be a highly accurate representation of what the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines encountered in November, 2004, during the Second Battle of Fallujah. Shortly after it was announced to the public in 2009, it was dropped by its publisher and is now nothing more than a “what if” of gaming.
As much as I love the FPS genre, most games lack the raw emotional connection that Six Days in Fallujah promised to offer.
The developers at Atomic Games took their project very seriously. Every aspect of the game was created based on interviews with over 70 individuals, including the U.S. Marines who fought there, Iraqi civilians, war historians, senior military officials, and even former Iraqi insurgents.
The game was a far cry from typical first-person shooters that reward players for sprinting around the map, spraying bullets at the bad guys. Instead, it was said to have been more like a survival-horror game. Every minor decision made in the game would have lasting effects on player’s experience. Additionally, the game was built on an astounding engine that allowed for a 100% destructible environment — bullet holes left in walls from a previous skirmish would exist into perpetuity.
The game’s director, Juan Benito, told GamePro Magazine that giving players a taste of the horror, fear, and misery experienced by real-life Marines in the battle was a top priority.
“These are scary places, with scary things happening inside of them. In the game, you’re plunging into the unknown, navigating through darkened interiors, and ‘surprises’ left by the insurgency. In most modern military shooters, the tendency is to turn the volume up to 11 and keep it there. Our game turns it up to 12 at times, but we dial it back down, too, so we can establish a cadence.”
I mean, ‘Breach’ wasn’t terrible, but you could tell there wasn’t much heart put into the game.
In Six Days in Fallujah, you would’ve followed a young Marine who was attached to the 3/1 Marines. Throughout the game, you’d encounter factual skirmishes that involved actual Marines and insurgents that were present at that given moment, based off accounts from those who were actually there. The Marines to your left and your right in those skirmishes were to be the actual Marines — which also meant that those who died in real life would die at the same moment in game. This, as you can imagine, was met with extreme controversy.
The game was being created to honor their fallen service members, but public condemnation proved too great and too universal, so it was dropped within the month by Konami — for very valid reasons.
After the publisher dropped out, the game’s director quietly left along with much of studio’s staff. The remaining assets were hobbled together to create the the sub-par Breach in attempt to recoup on the time invested in the doomed title. The president of Atomic Games promised that Six Days in Fallujah would eventually see the light of day.
You know — if it updated its graphics to be comparable with modern games.
Cases can be made for and against the game, but one thing is for certain: it would’ve offered something vastly different to gamers. In 2009, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released and multiplayer lobbies were filled brim with screaming pre-teens. It was just five years since the Second Battle of Fallujah, which might’ve been too soon, but it definitely would’ve been a grim reminder of the true horrors of war in an industry too-often trivialized it.
The gaming community has matured vastly in the last decade. Games like Valiant Heart and This War of Mine have all been based on the realities of war. Games like Arma III and Rainbow Six: Siege have all taken mature, realistic approaches to how modern shooters should play out.
If or when the game does eventually find its footing and a pathway to release, it’ll likely find support withing the military-veteran community — as long as the game doesn’t, even for a second, make light of the seriousness of the Second Battle of Fallujah.
Coast Guard crew members aboard the cutter Valiant intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean, arresting four suspected smugglers in the process.
The 40-foot vessel, of a type often called a “narco sub” (though most are not fully submersible), was first detected and tracked by a maritime patrol aircraft. The Joint Interagency Task Force South, a multinational body that coordinates law-enforcement efforts in the waters around Central and South America, directed the Valiant to intercept it.
A Coast Guard release didn’t give an exact date for the seizure, saying only that it took place in September 2019 and the Valiant arrived on the scene after sunset.
Coast Guard crew members aboard a “narco sub” in the Pacific Ocean with a suspected smuggler, September 2019.
(US Coast Guard)
The cutter launched two small boats carrying members of its crew and two members of the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team. They caught up with the narco sub in the early morning hours and boarded it with the help of the Colombian navy, which arrived a short time later.
The crew members transferred more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine from the sub to the Valiant but were unable to get the rest because of concerns about the sub’s stability. (The total value of the drugs was estimated at more than 5 million.)
“This interdiction was an all-hands-on-deck evolution, and each crew member performed above and beyond the call of duty,” Cmdr. Matthew Waldron, commanding officer of the Valiant, said in the release.
Members of a US Coast Guard cutter Valiant boarding team transfer narcotics between an interceptor boat and a suspected smuggling vessel in September.
(US Coast Guard)
2 ‘momentous events’
Narco subs have appeared in the waters between the US and South America for years and have only gotten more sophisticated. But they are still homemade vessels, often built in jungles in Colombia, and can be unsteady on the open ocean, particularly when law enforcement stop them to board.
Narco subs typically cost id=”listicle-2640583643″ million to million to built, but their multimillion-dollar drug cargoes more than make up for the expense.
“Colombian traffickers like to use the semi-submersibles because they are hard to detect” and cheaper than full-fledged submarines, Mike Vigil, former director of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration, told Business Insider in 2018.
The vessels are typically made of fiberglass and the most expensive component is the engine. Some even have lead linings to reduce their infrared signature, Vigil said.
Bales of cocaine seized from a suspected smuggling vessel on the deck of the US Coast Guard cutter Valiant in September.
(US Coast Guard)
The Coast Guard in late 2017 said it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile smuggling vessels like narco subs.
“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels — 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in an October 2018 interview.
Schultz and other Coast Guard officials pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure. The service has pursued what Schultz called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.
For the Valiant, that meant this particular bust coincided with a mariner’s milestone: crossing the equator.
“There are no words to describe the feeling Valiant crew is experiencing right now,” Waldron said. “In a 24-hour period, the crew both crossed the equator and intercepted a drug-laden self-propelled semi-submersible vessel.”
Both are “momentous events in any cutterman’s career,” Waldron added. “Taken together, however, it is truly remarkably unprecedented.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels returned from his last combat deployment, he was frustrated by what he saw. He understood that he’d been fighting for America’s freedom, including the important freedom to protest. But he didn’t like seeing the American flag burned.
So he did something about it.
Daniels designed and developed a flag that will not burn. Now, after two years of research and hundreds of prototypes, on Sunday, June 14 – Flag Day 2020 – the Firebrand Flag Company will launch its first product: A first-of-its-kind, official, fire-retardant U.S. Flag made in America from the same kevlar and nomex fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe.
Daniels has big ambitions for his flag company. “I want Firebrand Flags to be the official flag company of the U.S.A.,” he said. “I want every home, business and government building in America to proudly fly one of our flags. And, if, for some reason, one of our enemies got ahold of one of our flags, it wouldn’t be much use as a propaganda tool. They would have to go to extreme lengths to destroy it, much like they do when they are face to face with an American service member. Old Glory can now defend itself.”
Early on, Daniels shared his vision with his former Green Beret commander, Jason Van Camp. Van Camp immediately invited Daniels to join his Warrior Rising incubator. Warrior Rising helps veteran entrepreneurs find mentors who can help realize their business goals and transition to the private sector. “I’ve known Kyle since the Special Forces Qualification Course. I believe in Kyle. He was a perfect fit for Warrior Rising,” Van Camp explained. “He had passion and zeal for making a flag that would literally dominate the narrative about flag burning but needed to evolve a new set of business skills to realize his vision.”
The mission wasn’t going to be easy. To make a flag that would look, feel and fly like a real flag but that wouldn’t burn, Daniels needed to engineer new materials and design a manufacturing process that previously didn’t exist. There were plenty of roadblocks along the way. The process to make the flag required entirely new cutting machines and the largest purchase of Kevlar fabric outside of the U.S. military. But Daniels applied the resilience he learned in the military to his business. As Daniels put it, “You have to adapt, overcome and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission.”
At a Warrior Rising event, Kyle met yet another ex-Green Beret, Chase Millsap, the Chief Content Officer at We Are The Mighty. We Are The Mighty is a publisher and content studio focused on the military and veteran communities. Millsap loved the Firebrand mission from the outset. “We tell stories that celebrate service. Kyle’s unburnable flag is an awesome product with an amazing story.” It took Milsap no time to convince his colleagues to jump on board and the two companies have formed a partnership to bring the Firebrand Flag to market. WATM is the proud media partner of Firebrand Flags.
Get your unburnable flag today. The first 150 orders before June 26 save , and get free shipping (a value). All orders placed by June 26 are guaranteed to arrive in time for the 4th of July.
FIREBRAND FLAG COMPANY – Founded by Green Beret veteran Kyle Daniels, Firebrand Flags is the 1st company to develop a 100% made in America, fire retardant officials U.S. Flag.
WARRIOR RISING – A 501c(3) which empowers U.S. military veterans and their immediate family members by providing them opportunities to create sustainable businesses, perpetuate the hiring of fellow American veterans and earn their future.
WE ARE THE MIGHTY – Launched in 2014, We Are The Mighty (WATM) was created to give military veterans a voice to tell the most authentic, entertaining and inspirational stories about the military and by the military.
A-list actors, pop stars, football players and tech giants have two things in common: fame and money. Celebrities have the resources to become powerful philanthropists, but not all of them do. Of those who do give back, some keep their donations quieter than others. A few have even formed secret charity foundations! Which of these generous celebs is your favorite?
Keanu Reeves, the star of the Matrix and numerous other box office hits, looks roughly the same as he did when the movie first came out in 1999. Over the past 20 years, however, he has shown more maturity and grace than most celebrities ever develop. While he keeps his donations and personal life on the down-low, he has his own secret charity organization. Which one it is, we may never know. He also donates thousands to children’s hospitals and cancer research- inspired by his sister Kim’s battle with leukemia. Perhaps generosity and humility are the secrets to his apparent immortality!
The Single Ladies superstar is no longer single, and she and husband Jay-Z have both donated millions each year. Beyonce co-founded The Survivor Foundation, a community outreach facility in her hometown of Houston, Texas, and donated 100K to help local residents impacted by Hurricane Ike. While some critics, including Harry Belafonte, have said the power couple doesn’t donate enough through their foundations, it turns out they keep some of their acts of charity private. Beyonce’s pastor let it spill that the singer donated $7 million to start a Houston housing project for the homeless in 2014.
George Michael was another big-name celebrity who preferred not to publicize his admirable actions. He was so secretive that we still don’t know exactly how much he gave, but he donated royalties from “Jesus to a Child” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to several children’s organizations and HIV charities. He also helped out a Deal or No Deal contestant who was on the show in hopes of funding IVF treatments, which usually cost upward of 20K.
While she’s currently known for her latest X-rated song, WAP, behind the scenes, Nicki Minaj is quite the philanthropist. In 2017, she shared her most significant charity project- helping to support a village in India- in hopes of inspiring her fans to give back. She began the initiative with her pastor years ago, working to build wells, a reading center, a computer center, and more.
George Clooney’s tale of giving sounds like something out of a movie. In a recent interview with GQ, George reflected on one of his most giving moments; inviting 14 of his closest friends for dinner, and gifting them each one million dollars. He figured his friends had each helped him in one way or another over the years, helping him through the early years of his acting career. Many of them could now use the financial support themselves, so he thought a cash gift would make a fitting thank you.
Steve Jobs wasn’t known for his generosity while he was alive, but it turns out he was a pretty good guy. Laurene told the New York Times that they preferred their donations to remain anonymous, but in secret, the two of them donated incredible sums. Over the course of a few years, they donated $50 million to California hospitals alone.
You’ve gotta love a rapper who gives back just to do good, not for good press. Eminem’s real name is Marshall Mathers, and he made his own self-titled charity foundation. The organization shells out money to charitable organizations all the time, but always under the condition that no one discloses who it’s really from. Still, secret donations get leaked now and then. It turns out that Eminem donated $200,000 to an organization for at-risk youth in his home state of Michigan. Nice!
John Legend may be the “sexiest man alive”, but he’s also one of the sweetest. Sharing two beautiful kids with model Chrissy Teigan, he has a soft spot for children in need. Many low-income students nationwide struggle to afford school lunches, including many in the Seattle area where Chrissy spent much of her youth. Their families owed $21,000 in school lunch debt, so John stepped in and paid off several thousand of it under his birth name, John Stephens.
Barbra Streisand was born in New York City, but after living in Los Angeles for most of her life, she considers it to be her hometown. Every year, she gives back to LA charities through her private charity foundation. Many of the donations are kept quiet, but one was too generous not to share. She gave $5 million to Cedars Sinai Non-Profit Hospital, which renamed the cardiac wing “the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center”.
One of the most-loved actresses in all of Hollywood, Meryl Streep has used her platform to encourage the support of women and girls around the world. Meryl also puts her money where her mouth is. She and her husband, Don Gummer, founded the Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts, and they’ve donated millions for American charities, including New York’s Meals on Wheels and the Coalition for the Homeless. None of the donations were publicized, but Forbes figured out who they came from after tracing the foundation’s tax filings.
Giving back doesn’t have to be monetary to make an impact. Russell Wilson, the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, was raised by an ER nurse and a dad suffering from diabetes. He saw firsthand how important healthcare really is, so when he grew up, volunteering in hospitals was a natural fit. He volunteered at a children’s hospital in Wisconsin throughout college.
Emptiness and gloom is pretty much the main theme at Pripyat, Ukraine, one of the largest ghost towns in the world.
Built as a small residential city for employees assigned to the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, it was suddenly abandoned en masse after Chernobyl’s Number 4 reactor experienced the worst nuclear meltdown in history in 1986, spreading deadly radiation across Ukraine and large chunks of Eastern Europe.
As a direct result of this accident, decrepit farmers fields and forest clearings are now home to some of the eeriest military hardware graveyards in the world, full of untouchable Soviet-era equipment.
In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, the power plant spewed uncontrollable amounts of toxic chemicals into the air, fatally irradiating hundreds, if not thousands, of the Pripyat’s citizens. Over the course of a few days, the entire town was told to pack lightly and leave right away by military personnel deployed to the area to help with the response to the effects of the meltdown.
Within a week, Pripyat, a once-thriving planned city was deserted — save for scores of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and heavy trucks brought in by the military to assist with the nuclear cleanup.
Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. State-of-the-art remote-controlled fire suppression units, radiation monitors, cherry-pickers and more, were also brought in to tackle the horrifying situation that lay before Chernobyl and its neighboring towns.
The debacle proved to be a global embarrassment for the Soviet Union, still in control over Ukraine, and something needed to be done to make it go away quickly before further details of the accident made their way into Western newspapers.
Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Cleanup and response crews were placed on rotating schedules to limit their exposure to radiation, though this proved in the long run to be poorly executed, leading to the deaths of many.
When removing helicopters and trucks from Pripyat and neighboring locales similarly affected by the meltdown, Geiger scans noted that every single truck brought into the disaster zone was severely radioactive. In effect, soldiers were operating inside cocoons of radioactivity, bombarding them with harmful cancer-causing radiation particles.
There was no other solution than to simply abandon these costly vehicles around Chernobyl rather than attempt to decontaminate and scrub them clean. Scores of tanks and trucks were left to rot in “mohyl’nyk” (Ukrainian burial grounds) after it was no longer feasible to safely operate them (the term “safely” being used very relatively and loosely here).
More equipment and military vehicles were brought in to assist with the post-meltdown cleanup, and more were similarly condemned and abandoned.
Helicopters, especially gargantuan Mil Mi-6 Hook transports, were listed among the worst cases of exposure, given that they were tasked with flying directly above the plant after the accident in order to release chemical solvents to eliminate fires burning beneath the plant’s blown-off roof. These helicopters were also abandoned at burial grounds, arranged among rows of dark green equipment.
Today, some of these armored trucks, tanks, helicopters, and even trains, still sit in the fields around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, which has since been enveloped in a sarcophagus to prevent further radiation leakage. The largest of these fields is known as the Rassokha Equipment Cemetery.
The general area, known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, is mostly off-limits to the public, though occasional tour groups are permitted to briefly enter the Zone for a quick peek before being ushered out. Visiting the abandoned vehicle graveyards is prohibited, however.
The Ukrainian government has invested considerable amounts of time and money into securing the Chernobyl plant, still in a low state of operation, and with disposing of the vehicle mohyl’nyk, full of unsalvageable gear. Over the past decade, teams of specialists have entered these fields to dismantle large sections of the graveyards and bury them on the spot, ensuring that the radiation they emit is fully contained.
Even still, the burial of every single piece of hardware will take years, thanks to the sheer numbers used in the wake of the accident. The few remaining war machines left untouched serve as silent reminders of the worst nuclear disaster in history, never to be used again.
IWA International is a company based out of Miami, FL that specializes in importing unique tactical gear from all around the world. We recently got a chance to play with a couple of their latest releases — civilian-legal flashbang grenades.
Actual flashbangs produced for military and law enforcement use are classified as destructive devices by the ATF and are not available on the commercial market. They typically consist of an explosive charge and fuse mechanism inside a steel or aluminum grenade body. We have seen simulators and training aids available for unrestricted purchase that use shotgun blanks or even CO2 cartridges to create the bang, popular for use in airsoft and paintball matches.
But the IWA bangs are a little different. They consist of a small charge inside a cardboard tube. The design actually reminds us of some of the first-generation concussion grenades that used a similar cardboard or paper body. The IWA grenades are classified as pyrotechnics and are governed by the same restrictions that apply to fireworks. Because of this, shipping is limited to ground-transport only which means only those in the Lower 48 will be able to purchase them, state and local laws notwithstanding.
There are currently three models available from IWA – the M11 multi-burst, the M12 Distraction Device, and the M13 Thermobaric Canister. The M11 gives off a single loud bang followed by two smaller bangs. The M12 is a single charge, and the M13 Thermobaric produces a single loud bang and a “mild overpressure” as described by the folks at IWA. Fortunately, they sent us a couple of each for testing. All three models sport OD green cardboard bodies and pull-ring fuses with a safety spoon that flies free when the safety ring is pulled. Each grenade is individually labeled and, though the bodies look identical, the labels are large and clearly marked so you know what you’re getting when you pull the pin. They are roughly the same size as an actual flashbang and seem to fit in most nylon pouches made for the real deal.
There are, of course, some differences between the IWA products and the real thing. The biggest difference is sound output. The products made by DefTec and ALS produce about 175 decibels on detonation. The IWA grenades are rated for 125 decibels. The other major difference is time delay. Tactical-grade flashbangs usually have a 1.5-second delay, while the IWA versions are currently advertised at 2.5 seconds. They tell us they are working on an improved fuse that will bring the delay down to 2 seconds or less.
The folks we spoke to at IWA say that these are meant primarily for training and simulation purposes. Not to mention the obvious f*ck-yeah-factor of getting to toss grenades for whatever special occasion you can come up with. The lower sound output makes them a more akin to a sophisticated M80 than a tool for post-apocalyptic home defense, but we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Who needs a reason to set off explosives? All three versions of the IWA flashbang are available for .99 each, with bulk pricing available.
The photos here will have to hold you over for now but stay tuned to RecoilWeb and RecoilTV for video of our tests of these unique products. In the meantime, check out iwainternationalinc.com and pick up one or two for yourself.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
In the past few years, dozens of veteran and civilian Americans left the comfort and safety of their homes to tackle what they saw as an unspeakable evil growing from the Middle East — the Islamic State. A new television documentary series from History followed those Americans as they fought with Kurdish fighters in Syria. The show pulls no punches in showing what combat looks like on the front lines of the fight against the world’s most ruthless terrorists.
You can catch Hunting ISIS every Tuesday at 11pm on History but read on and learn about how and why Americans fought the good fight long before their country was ready.”I heard the stories, I knew that ISIS was evil,” says PJ, a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq. “But you can never understand the brutality that they’re capable of until you see it with your own eyes… Most people in America aren’t able or willing to come over here,” he says. “And for them, I will carry what weight I can.”
The group that came to be dubbed ISIS by Americans came to global recognition in 2014 while capitalizing on power vacuums in Iraq and Syria. The group managed to capture large swaths of both countries. In Iraq, ISIS captured most of Fallujah, took the provincial capital of Mosul, and even approached the outskirts of Baghdad.
In Syria, ISIS occupied most of the country’s eastern half, basing out of the group’s de facto capital, Raqqa. At the height of its power in 2014, the would-be terrorist state controlled the lives of some 10 million people. What was most horrifying about life under ISIS control was not only the restrictions on personal freedoms for those 10 million people, but the punishments for breaking ISIS law, executions of political prisoners and POWs, and the genocides committed against “apostate” ethnic groups, especially Yazidis.
Horrified by the ongoing violence, many American veterans of the war in Iraq were inspired by the dogged resistance of the Kurdish Peshmerga as they fought to push back the dark tide of ISIS’ brand of Islamic extremism. The Peshmerga has long been the most effective fighting force in the region and a natural U.S. ally against ISIS.
Long before that alliance was solidified, and long before other regional powers, like Iran and Russia, decided to intervene in the two countries, some American veterans decided to travel to Iraq and join that fight alongside the region’s only remaining stand against terrorist domination. For them, they would be fighting the good fight and doing the right thing against the wishes of the U.S. government and military. They fight unpaid and unsanctioned. Worst of all, they face jail time if they’re caught by Americans — execution if they’re caught by the enemy.
“This battlefield called out to me personally, being that I have blood, sweat, and tears on that sand,” says PJ. “How many of my brothers lost their lives fighting those scumbags in Iraq? And now here they are from Raqqa to Mosul… we can stop this if we stand together.”
But the Islamic State isn’t the only evil Americans fought before their country was ready.
Members of the Lafayette Escadrille pose in front of their Nieuport fighters at the airfield in Verdun, France circa 1917.
1. World War I – Lafayette Escadrille
Named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who was instrumental in the success of the American Revolution, the Lafayette Escadrille was a squadron of American airmen who volunteered to fight for the French against Germany in the first world war in 1916 – almost a full year before the United States entered the war on the side of the Entente.
American volunteers Merian C. Cooper and Cedric Fauntleroy, fighting in the Polish Air Force. The Soviets placed a large bounty on Cooper’s head.
2. Kosciuszko Squadron – Polish-Soviet War
For three years, Poland fought Soviet Russia for control of parts of Eastern Poland and Ukraine. American volunteers, wary of the spread of Communism to the West, volunteered for the Polish Air Forces against the Soviets with notable successes — the Soviets put half-million ruble bounty on one aviator’s head. One Polish general said of the Americans,
“The American pilots, though exhausted, fight tenaciously. During the last offensive, their commander attacked enemy formations from the rear, raining machine-gun bullets down on their heads. Without the American pilots’ help, we would long ago have been done for.”
Tom Mooney Company from the Lincoln Battalion. Jarama, Spain circa 1937.
3. Lincoln Battalion – Spanish Civil War
Fascism was the true enemy in Spain, where those loyal to the democratic Second Spanish Republic fought Francisco Franco’s nationalism for three years before their defeat in 1939. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were among the countries who officially supported the Nationalists, while the Soviet Union supported the left-leaning Republicans. Meanwhile, Britain and the U.S. officially stayed out of the fighting.
Many, many volunteers poured in from all over the world to fight for the Republican army in the International Brigades. For the Americans, they joined what was known as the Abraham Lincoln brigades, an amalgamation of English-speaking British and American volunteers.
American pilots of No 71 ‘Eagle’ Squadron rush to their Hawker Hurricanes at Kirton-in-Lindsey, March 1941.
4. Eagle Squadrons – The Battle of Britain
The early days of World War II were dark days for the British. The threat of Nazi invasion loomed large over the whole of the island. We know today that they were relatively safe across the English Channel, but they hardly thought so back then. But after the seeds of our “special relationship” with the United Kingdom were sown in World War I, many Americans eschewed American neutrality to join the RAF in giving Jerry a black eye.
Those men would join the RAF’s three Eagle Squadrons. The first was formed in September 1940 and fought with the British until their units were transferred to the U.S. 8th Air Force in 1942.
5. The Flying Tigers – World War II China
A truly joint operation, the Flying Tigers were formed from a bold group of Army, Navy, and Marine Corps airmen and placed under the command of a retired American general attached to the Chinese Air Force. Three squadrons of 90 aircraft trained in Burma well before the U.S. entry to World War II. So, when their first combat mission came calling just 12 days after the attack at Pearl Harbor, they were more than ready.
When the U.S. came to take them back, they were made part of the U.S. Army’s 14th Air Force – the 23rd Fighter Group. The 23rd still flies planes with shark teeth nose art on their A-10 fleet, an homage to the P-40 Warhawks flown by the Flying Tigers.
Historically, the Vietnam War is one of America’s longest-running conflicts — only Operation Enduring Freedom has been longer. But, of all the chaos and carnage that characterized the Vietnam War, one of the most notable clashes is similar to one performed on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) about 36 years later.
The date was May 2, 1964. Viet Cong commandos had been trying to hit an American transport ship in Saigon to stop the flow of materiel to the South Vietnamese government. Two ships, the USNS Card and the USNS Core, had been serving as transports for helicopters and other essentials. The ships were World War II-era Bogue-class escort carriers that displaced about 16,600 tons and could travel at a top speed of 18 knots while carrying a dozen F4F Wildcats and nine TBF/TBM Avenger torpedo bombers.
After World War II, these carriers were too small to operate jets and a bit too slow for front-line service. Still, when a ship has a flight deck that is 439 feet by 70 feet — almost 31,000 square feet – and a hangar deck of roughly the same size, it’s still useful. So, the Military Sea Transport Service (the forerunner to today’s Military Sealift Command) took these ships. After all, they were pretty much free.
According to the National Interest, the Viet Cong managed to pull off the May 2 attack by sending a commando through the sewer system. A pair of limpet mines were stashed by the sewer’s exit, waiting for the commando as swam out toward the ship. He then planted the limpet mines on the side of the Card, set the timer, and made a clean getaway. At three in the morning, the mines went off. Severely damaged, the Card settled on the bottom of the harbor with five of her crew killed.
But she didn’t stay there. It took the Navy 17 days to do the temporary repairs required to get the Card out of the harbor. By the end of the year, the former escort carrier was back in service, and she made other runs carrying materiel. She did so for five more years after returning to service. In 1971, the Card was scrapped. Any claims that the Communists in Vietnam sunk a carrier are nothing but propaganda.
When a newly-minted Marine Corps Scout Sniper graduates from the sniper school where they learn their trade, they will be presented with a 7.62 round, the ammunition commonly used by the Marines’ elite scout sniper corps. But earning the actual HOGs Tooth is a much, more difficult task – because a Marine will be squaring off against another sniper looking for a HOGs Tooth of his (or her) own.
Before graduating sniper school, Marines are called “PIGs” – professionally instructed gunmen.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos)
Before we all drown in Facebook comments, let it be known that the point of this isn’t to make one tradition seem greater or more badass than the other. We’re talking about two different traditions that just have similar superstitious origins. It was once said there was a round out there destined to end the life of any sniper – the bullet with your name on it. The idea behind the HOG’s Tooth is that if anyone could acquire the bullet with their name on it, they would be invincible.
For a sniper to acquire the tooth of a “Hunter Of Gunmen,” a sniper must go through three steps, each more difficult than the last. The first step is to become an actual sniper, not just someone who’s really good at shooting. This means snipers need to go through a sniper school and deploy to an active combat zone. Don’t worry, deploying to a combat zone definitely won’t take long.
The third step is a doozy.
Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon dig deep to complete the two-week preparation course.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
The third step to getting that HOG’s Tooth trophy actually has a few sub-steps. It starts with forcing a duel against another sniper (preferably an enemy). Once a sniper defeats an enemy sniper in sniper-on-sniper combat, they must then make it over to the enemy position where they will hopefully find the scene undisturbed. This will likely be difficult because they’re supposed to be in hostile territory. If they get there before anyone else, they should capture the enemy’s rifle. But more important to the trophy process is capturing what’s in that rifle: the round in the chamber.
That round is the “bullet with your name on it.”
If a sniper captures this bullet, superstition says, that sniper cannot be killed by gunfire on the battlefield because no one there has the bullet that is destined to kill them. Separate the bullet from the cartridge and use 550-cord or some other tried-and-true stringing method and feel free to use the round as a necklace. The bullet meant for you will always be around the neck of its potential victim rather than inside him somewhere.
Chesty XIV is all grown up and headed into the retired life— and you might now see the adored English bulldog skateboarding around the nation’s capital.
After five years of service, the Marine Corps’ mascot transferred his responsibilities to a younger model on Aug. 24, 2018, during a ceremony at Marine Barracks Washington. Col. Donald Tomich, the barracks’ commanding officer, presided over the sergeant’s retirement ceremony.
The bulldog’s owner told NBC she planned to purchase a skateboard for the retired mascot, who finally gets to relax those strict Marine Corps standards in retired life.
“All the things I would not let him learn how to do because he might embarrass the Marine Corps, he’s going to learn how to do them,” Christine Billera told NBC News.
Chesty XIV grew into his responsibilities during his time at 8th and I. That included lots of nights on the parade deck in miniature dress blues or attending other events in the Washington, D.C. area in his service or utility uniforms.
Cpl. Chesty XIV stands over Chesty XV wearing a Campaign Cover at Marine Barracks Washington, March 19, 2018.
(Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Taryn Escott)
“When he was young, he was feisty and energetic just like most Marines are when they come out of recruit training,” Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Calderon, the drill master at 8th and I, told NBC Washington. “As he progressed and got a little bit older, he brought that wisdom, knowledge and experience.”
The service’s canine mascots are named for revered Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, who earned five Navy Crosses while serving nearly four decades in the Corps.
Pvt. Chesty XV, who arrived at the Barracks as a 10-week-old puppy in March 2018, has completed his entry-level training, where he was even issued his own physical-training safety belt. The private will immediately begin representing the Marine Corps at ceremonial events in the nation’s capital.
Not everyone was ready to see the service’s 14th canine mascot go. Sgt. Chesty XIV will always be remembered at 8th and I, Calderon told NBC Washington.
Others thought the English bulldog might’ve been skirting his weight standards and dodging PT during his last days on active duty.
“Time to retire when you can’t button that uniform,” one Facebook user joked.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.
Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.
If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.
If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.
Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.
Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.
You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)
Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.
Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.
Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.
If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.
To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.